TAKING THE FIFTH
|Why Going to the Movies Can
Still be A Pleasure
was struck by a report on the National Post (Toronto) the other day
by a journalist (McLaren) who said after going to see The Matrix
she never wanted to go to the movies again. Staying at home watching
The West Wing and ER was more intellectually stimulating
and she hated the kind of people who go to the movies, eat and talk
and generally behave like the general public.
Well I am sure European royalty used to say the same thing when attending
the Theatre. Theres only so much contact one can make
with ones subjects. One suspects that working for a right-wing
newspaper like The Post would help develop those kind of attitudes.
Of course I am not defending The Matrix. They made their
money but essentially many of us were disappointed with their lack of
dedication to the art of storytelling. It seems as if they cribbed the
script off a very bad video-game then poured a $100 million bucks at
it in the hopes it wouldnt stink. It does, but then again, it
is exciting to watch, so I wouldnt exactly say it is the kind
of film that should turn someone off cinema forever. For that you need
Al Pacino whose onerous conditions in his divorce settlement is forcing
him to make bad film after bad film until he becomes as big a joke as
Robert De Nero who blew his rep years ago. (Avoid Pacino's film People
Like Us if you want to remember him well).
We are very lucky in Vancouver to have one cinema that actually does
cater for the selective audience, where it is unlikely the hoi poloi
will cough up their dough and spill megasize popcorn over your cocktail
dress. The Fifth Avenue Cinema on Burrard is very particular about who
it lets in, you can even buy membership and they tend to show art films.
Neeedless to say it is my favourite cinema in Canada (despite the number
of darn Al Pacino films that turn up there). (My all time favourite
cinema is The Chelsea on the Kings Road, London.)
Right now June 1st - the Fifth are offering Winged Migration,
by Jacques Perrin, Jacques Ciuzard & Michel Debats - an Oscar nominated
feature length documentary about migrating birds. It is wonderful, funny,
sad, lyrical and probably a vivid demonstration on why cinema was actually
invented! Go see it now. They also have Man on a train.
Directed by Patrice Laconte (who made the wonderful Girl On
a Bridge this film is more subdued and closer in feeling to
his earlier Monsieur Hire, (with Jean Rochefort again). This
is a simple tale that tells of a lonely older man bored with his life
being fascinated by another man, a bank robber and wishing he had the
strength and courage to swop lives with him. The bank robber is played
by Johnny Hallyday, a perennial French Rock Star and although
the film fared badly in France, it travels well because, of course,
we have not heard of Hallyday or seen him doing his Elvis impersonations
(merci pour cette). Man on the Train is a sweet, comfortable film that
takes time to build character and its a nice antidote to much
of the recent American fare.
The Fifth is also carrying Spellbound this week,
the brilliant documentary by Jeff Blitz. He follows kids across America
who enter for the annual Spelling Bee contest. Its amazing, riveting
and often hilarious as well as tragic for the kids who study so hard
yet lose. Is it child abuse? Probably, but then every parent should
drag their kids to see it and make them realise just how easy they have
it. (You can fit it in with a double bill with Winged Migration). The
Fifth also has Down With Love and A Mighty
Wind. I havent seen Down with Love
but Carine reports that is wonderful, very pink and doesnt take
itself very seriously, a genuine chic flick; whereas we
both saw A Mighty Wind. Directed by Christopher Guest,
it is funny and although a one joke film, has some arresting moments
and neat digs at the whole folk movement and revivals. Last
week the Fifth had Russian Ark, the extraordinary
film by Alexander Sokurov about St Petersburg Palace (currently celebrating
its 200th year) -art and time travel - a genuine masterpiece of filmmaking.
It was also home to Flower and Garnet by Keith Behrman,
winner of 8 Leos two weeks ago and the best film to have come out of
BC in years.
So, if you think you dont want to see another comic book brought
to life such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
(with all the rumours of strife on set and Sean Connery re-editing it
personally), or Incredible Hulk (that has preview
audiences jeering), or a remake of The Italian Job
or indeed Terminator, then seek out The Fifth Avenue
Cinema when in Vancouver and find an oasis of cinema culture. (If you
are a regular you will also get used to seeing trailers for films that
never actually arrive there such as Morvern Callar
and Whale Rider. I feel I have already seen Morven
Callar I have seen the trailer so many times and why do American
and Canadian trailers have be so long? Can nothing be left to the imagination?)
(Update: Whale Rider begins showing there on 20th June and after
seeing a preview it really is a sweet film full of wonderful characters.
New Zealand movies always surprise and this written and driected by
Niki Caro is well worth seeing. Take the kids. It concerns one girls
determination to matter in the eyes of her Grandfather who can only
see a future chief for his people in the local young boys. He has no
time for girls. She knows better and her determination is inspiring.)
Outside the Fifth around the side is an excellent friendly coffee bar
'The Elysian Room ' 1778 West 5th (with downtempo funky music) and Incendio
Pasta bar on the other side for dinner after. Is it better than staying
at home and watching TV? Heck yes and it doesnt stop the drama
every five minutes for commercials. Thats why we go to the movies.
Sure rent a movie, but your home screen is smaller, the company is boring
and the whole point of movie watching is the experience. If in Vancouver
take the Fifth, you wont regret it. Is there an art house near
you? Start frequenting it. Better yet get to know the manager and tell
him that there really are films made elsewhere in this world and they
do deserve to be seen. Save the art house from extinction, only you
can do it.
© Sam North June 2003
The Fifth Avenue Cinema
2110 Burrard Street Tel 604 7347469
PS: On the strength of this article we were invited
to see 2Fast2Furious last week.
Appalling acting, dumb diaglogue, implausible plotline but why then
was it so enjoyable?
John Singleton knows how to make an action movie and I guess above all,
he knows his audience. A fun film- not at all surprised it's number
one this week. Catch it on the big screen, enjoy the noise.
The program changes every Friday. Check the Georgia
Straight for what's on this week.
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